Originally created 04/29/01

Across the area



AUGUSTA
Off-duty deputy foils theft attempt

An Albany, Ga., man's robbery attempt fell apart Saturday afternoon when an off-duty Richmond County Sheriff's deputy happened to be in the jewelry store when the man ran off with a $16,000 diamond ring, police say.

Charles Edward Whaley, 37, was arrested and charged with robbery by sudden snatching and obstruction of a law enforcement officer.

Mr. Whaley went into Kay Jewelers in the Augusta Mall at about 2 p.m., said Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Richard Roundtree, and asked the sales clerk if he could look at the ring.

He then ran out of the store with the ring and found himself being chased by an off-duty deputy and mall security officers, who caught up with the suspect in the parking lot, Investigator Roundtree said.

He said Mr. Whaley sprayed the deputy with mace but was soon taken into custody. The ring was recovered.

AUGUSTA
Four escape mobile home fire

A south Augusta mobile home off Deans Bridge Road was engulfed in flames Saturday morning by the time Richmond County firefighters arrived.

The department was called to the fire at 3614 Deans Bridge Road at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning, according to Battalion Chief Otis Spence.

The family's Oldsmobile Achieva, which was parked next to the rented mobile home, also was destroyed in the fire.

Sheldyse Wimberly said that her daughter's boyfriend saw flames above the stove before the fire tore through the home. The four people in the structure made it out safely.

The fire was extinguished before it could spread to the neighboring mobile homes in Mars Trailer Park, but the heat melted siding on three surrounding mobile homes.

GEORGIA
State panel admonishes judge

ATLANTA - A judge who dismissed a hit-and-run case because prosecutors were late for court has been admonished by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission for private comments she made to the jury.

The commission Friday also said Superior Court Judge Alice Bonner was vacating her seat on the panel, which reviews the actions of Georgia judges.

"Judge Bonner's informal comments were inappropriate," the commission said.

It added that Judge Bonner, whose term on the commission had expired but who was staying over until a successor was appointed, had notified the state Supreme Court that she was giving up the seat.

The commission noted that Judge Bonner had met privately with the jury to explain why she had dismissed charges against Rosendo Abarca last month. While that does not violate the canons of judicial conduct, the panel said, judges should confine their comments to jurors in open court.

Mr. Abarca was accused of being the driver of one of four cars that struck a young mother who was killed crossing an Atlanta street. Judge Bonner drew protests from the woman's family and activists when she dismissed the case after the prosecutors were 15 minutes late for court.

GEORGIA
Rooftop thief leaves damage

ATHENS - A destructive thief is breaking into Athens businesses through the roof, leaving behind expensive property damage even when only a few dollars are stolen.

"This man is doing more damage than he is benefiting from," Athens-Clarke police Lt. F.T. Strickland said. "In two instances, there was less than $60 total worth of quarters taken and he's done $6,000 worth of damage."

Police say the same person is responsible for nine rooftop break-ins this month. Last week, the thief broke into a Southeastern Stages bus station and took only change.

"He came in through one of the roof vents and did pretty extensive damage to the drop ceiling. He just beat his way through," bus station owner Rex Street said. "He tore up one of the gumball machines and got some quarters."

An April 14 burglary at a Salvation Army thrift store shut down business for a week while roof repairs were made. In that break-in, the burglar left behind some clothes and grabbed a fresh change of duds.

Police suspect the burglar is a homeless man striking businesses at random for some quick cash.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Body found beside burning car

GREENVILLE - Authorities are investigating what happened to a Greenville man who was burned to death next to his flaming car.

Franklin Lamine Nelson, 32, was about 10 to 15 feet from his car when firefighters arrived to put out the car fire, said Sgt. Mike Gambrell of the Greenville Police Department.

The car was registered to Mr. Nelson, Sgt. Gambrell said.

The driver's side door was open, and the car was parked in back of an abandoned house near Mr. Nelson's home.

Investigators say they are waiting on autopsy results and other tests regarding Mr. Nelson's death.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Officer snared in sex allegation

GAFFNEY - Gaffney police are investigating an allegation that an officer offered to drop an arrest warrant in exchange for sex.

Gaffney Police Chief John O'Donald said Friday that an internal investigation is being conducted.

"It's just a complaint at this point," Chief O'Donald said. "No criminal action has been filed."

A woman accused the officer of going to her house April 19, unzipping his pants and asking for oral sex, which she refused. She was arrested within an hour on a fraudulent check warrant by another officer, according to reports.

Neither the woman nor the officer were identified.

"The lady said the officer who had an outstanding warrant asked for sexual favors," Chief O'Donald said. "Right now, it's an internal investigation."

The chief said if further investigation is warranted an outside agency will be called in.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Transvestite's probation revoked

SPARTANBURG - A transvestite who once called himself "Teresa" and cut a deal with local prosecutors that became a campaign issue for Solicitor Trey Gowdy has had probation revoked and has been sent to prison for 30 years.

Prosecutors agreed to give Wilbur Sloan Jr., 35, probation on his charges of kidnapping and sexually assaulting four boys. Mr. Sloan had those charges reduced to aggravated assault and battery.

But Friday, Circuit Judge John Few canceled that deal when Mr. Sloan came before him on charges he failed to pay supervisory fees and report to his probation officer. Mr. Sloan also had two convictions for prostitution.

Mr. Sloan's plea bargain turned into a campaign issue for Mr. Gowdy, then a candidate running against Solicitor Holman Gossett.

Mr. Sloan's case was taken from Spartanburg County to Cherokee County to be heard by Circuit Judge Frank Eppes.

Judge Eppes gave Mr. Sloan three consecutive 10-year sentences before suspending it to five years' probation.

At the time, assistant solicitor Angela Moss did not discuss Mr. Sloan's plea bargain, saying she didn't want potential child molesters to learn how to reduce their sentences.

Mr. Gowdy's campaign sent a mailing before the Republican primary this past June. It included a mug shot of Mr. Sloan and a headline saying, "Solicitor's office agrees to give transvestite child molester probation in 1999."